Portland officials: we are a welcoming city, will not participate in 'witch hunts'

Easing immigrant fears in Portland

PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — Throughout the campaign, President-elect Donald Trump said one of his top priorities would be deporting illegal immigrants from this country.

Trump has changed numbers often, but now says he plans to begin removing more than 2 million illegal immigrants who have committed additional crimes on his first day in office.

What does this mean for diverse cities like Portland, and other cities identified as "sanctuaries" for illegal immigrants? The development is bringing up a sort of identity crisis for Portland.

The city is recognized on several unofficial national lists as a sanctuary city because of the city code.

The city's mayor and police chief say the city does not officially identify as a sanctuary city, but they are pledging that, no matter what happens after Trump's inauguration, Portland will remain a safe space for immigrants of all kinds.

“Nothing is changing at the local level,” Mayor Ethan Strimling said.

Right now, there are no concrete details about how Trump will carry out his plan, but he has been clear on calling for an end to sanctuary cities.

What exactly, then, is a sanctuary city? It's an unofficial term describing a city that has laws in place to protect illegal immigrants, even aiming to protect them from federal prosecution.

A chapter in Portland’s city code says that city employees and police officers shall not inquire into the immigration status of any person. City officials say that another line of city code prevents Portland from being officially described as a sanctuary city. That line states that if police believe someone who has committed a felony has previously been deported, they can then check for immigration status.

“The definition of sanctuary city changes. Depends on who you talk to," Police Chief Michael Sauschuck said. "I have yet to see a scenario where the city of Portland fits under that criteria."

“For me, it always has to come back to, do we cooperate with our federal partners? And the answer is yes,” Sauschuck said.

So Portland is not an official sanctuary city, despite what many online national lists say.

But should undocumented immigrants in Portland be fearful?

“We are a welcoming city and we will not be participating in any kind of witch hunts,” Mayor Strimling said.

Both the mayor and the police chief say that, despite the unknown future for illegal immigrants, there is nothing to fear.

“I don't see this changing the way we do business in Portland in any way,” Sauschuck said.

Copyright 2016 WCSH


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